What should you do when you're not catching fish? I mean after you've changed tactics, flies, leaders, location, attitude, fishing partners, hat, and the set of your jaw line.
There you are having a great time in the out-of-doors, enjoying the sunshine, the birds, the babble of rushing water--so why do care whether your catching fish or not? For most fly fishers, the answer is obvious: you're worried that other anglers will think you're a doofus; "Old Fred is still skunked. He's so uncool."
So to help out other anglers, I offer five tips on how to appear cool when you're not catching fish.
1. Switch from a nymph to a dry fly. If you're not going to catch fish, it's better to not catch them on a dry fly because dry flies are more cool then nymphs. If you're casting a dry when trout aren't rising, people will think you're a purist. Purists are superior to ordinary folks because they always do things their way regardless of whether it works or not. Mules are purists.
2. Switch from a dry to a nymph. Trout started rising, and you know that it's only cool to be fishless with a dry fly when trout won't rise. So when the hatch is on, tie on a nymph. Tell people, "Only the dinks are rising. The hawgs are taking 'em subsurface." Put on a crooked, knowing smile and say, "It's about quality, not quantity." If they ask how many you've caught, look at the sky and go, "Heh-heh-heh."
3. Forget the trout and focus on steelhead. The nymph and dry are both failures, so now you go after steelhead. If you're not going to catch fish, it's better to not catch big fish. It's okay to not catch a steelhead because no one expects you to catch one anyway. They'll think you're cool for trying, though.
4. Take photos. Suppose trout have thumbed their noses at your dries and your nymphs, and your arm is tired from casting for steelhead. Now put down the fly rod and pick up a camera. Photographers are arty types, and art is cool, especially with the ladies because they'll think you're sensitive. The type of camera is critical; a digital point-and-click is not cool. At a minimum, you need a high-end Nikon or Canon. A tripod is essential. To be really cool, use a 4x5 Toyo Field camera; a vintage Linhof is even better. Note that you don't actually have to take photos; in fact, the camera doesn't have to work. You set it up in a shady spot (on the tripod; very important), and plunk yourself in a chair next to it. Read a book. Tell people "I'm just waiting for the light to get right." They'll think you're brilliant and arty. And cool.
5. Write. Always carry a clipboard with a pad of paper. When all else fails, get out the clipboard and jot down some random thoughts. Any thoughts. A grocery list, even. Tell people you're a writer. Writers are experts, whether they know anything or not, so people respect writers, and think they're cool. They're almost as cool as photographers and the equipment is cheaper.
These are time-tested tactics. I use them all them time. In fact, today I'm on the Deschutes River, where the trout have rejected my nymphs and my dry flies, and my arm has grown tired from casting to non-existent steelhead. So I've set up a chair in the shade of a cottonwood. Next to me is a Linhof 4x5 camera on a tripod. The lens looks like a large cat attacked it, the shutter is broken, the bellows leaks, and the back is cracked; I got it for $37 at a garage sale. My clipboard is in my lap and I have started to write. The top of the page reads, "Five Things to Do When You're Not Catching Fish." It's a subject I'm an expert on.
aka Scott Richmond